Being weird used to be so much easier. In the 80’s and early 90’s all you needed to do was throw in a bit of keyboards, some cod-operatic singing and the odd electronic boing noise and you were a maverick genre-bending genius. Unfortunately for the weirdos, there’s nothing like two decades of repetition to normalise even the boldest experiment, and in 2015 being weird is harder than ever.
That was a very round-about way of saying that, although Code seem desperate to be seen as “progressive” or “avant-garde”, there’s very little on Mut (Agonia) that you won’t have heard before. Having now entirely shed their Black Metal origins, the core sound here could best be described as [cough, spit] “post-rock”, though more dynamic and catchy than is generally the case. A strong grasp of theatrics and a tendency towards the carnivalesque often calls to mind a more straight-laced, Rock-steady take on La Masquerade Infernale (Misanthropy) era Arcturus.
Whether or not Mut is truly “experimental” or “weird” is, of course, much less important than whether or not it’s actually any good, but I’ve been putting that off so far because it’s a considerably harder question to answer. Code have a solid grasp of song-writing dynamics, and there are some effectively catchy tracks on here, but they also have a tendency to indulge their “quirky” side to an extent that can become tiresome quickly. They also haven’t quite reconciled their catchy, carnivàle instincts with their new-found “post-rock” contemplative side, which can lead to some rather dull passages stretching between interesting sections.
If this review has leaned towards the negative so far, that’s only part of the story. Mut is a boldly written, tightly performed album with enough of its own identity to bring it out – at least partly – from the long shadows cast by its “avant garde” Black Metal forefathers and the Nerd Kings of post-rock, and there are going to be plenty of people out there who will enjoy it a lot more than I did. Ultimately, however, the overriding impression at this end was that of a band so enamoured with their own strangeness that they don’t quite deliver enough beyond it.